The 1956 Salem Wildcats baseball team had one of the most complete squads in school history with strong pitching, a potent offense and sharp defense.

That combination spelled one of the best seasons in school history. The Wildcats won their third straight North Egypt Conference championship with a 5-0-1 mark. Their 16-1-1 overall mark set a school record for wins in a season. Salem won its second regional championship that season and advanced to the sectional finals for the first time.

Outside of a 3-3 tie against Fairfield, the Wildcats cruised by the rest of their NEC competition. Salem outscored their other five league opponents by a combined 45-2.

In the first four years baseball was a league sport in the North Egypt Conference, the Salem Wildcats won the title every year.

The 1954 squad began that streak of dominance and as a result earned selection to the Salem Community High School Sports Hall of Fame.

The 1954 Wildcats, coached by Sam Bliss, were one of the most successful squads in school history. They went 15-3 overall and won the NEC title with a 10-2 record.

jerry_mercerA hard-throwing right-hander who made sports history with five no-hitters, four in succession, Jerry Mercer led the Salem baseball team to a North Egypt Conference championship and to the sectional finals in the state elimination series. Mercer graduated from Salem Community High School in 1956.

Mercer, who had an 11-0 record in regular season action, opened with a 4-0, no-hit victory over Vandalia, striking out 18 batters. He walked one batter that game and then promptly picked him off at first. He next recorded an 8-0 no-hitter over Lawrenceville, also fanning 18. Then came a no-hit, 11-0 win over Centralia, with 13 strikeouts, and a 13-0 no-hitter over Olney, with 10 strikeouts. Both of those games were five-inning affairs. National recognition came after the fourth no-hitter with a two-page spread in Life magazine.

morris_steevensMorris Steevens, a 1958 graduate, a fireballing left-hander excelled in four sports at Salem Community High School.

Steevens later pitched professionally for the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League.

Steevens started his high school pitching prowess with a four-hit shutout of Odin as a sophomore and also notched a four-hit victory over Centralia. During his junior year, he was the kingpin of the Wildcat pitching staff with five shutout victories, including a no-hit, 1-0 win over Flora. The Wildcats won their fourth straight North Egypt Conference championship that year and, with Steevens pitching a four-hitter, won the regional championship. During his senior year, Steevens combined with Jack Simmons and Billy Smith to pitch a 12-0, no-hit, win over Odin. Salem also won the district title that year, beating Centralia 4-2, with Steevens pitching a five hitter and contributing a two-run home run.

phillip_newportA former three-sports star at Salem Community High School, whose athletic career has wound from high school and college, and has culminated with 30 years in the teaching and coaching field, Phillip “Butch” Newport was inducted into the Salem High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.

Newport, a 1953 SCHS graduate, is a teacher and coach at Hollis Grade School at Bartonville. In 1989 his team placed fourth in the state in the Class A Division and he was named Division 4 Coach of the year.

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